AFC Champions League : Defending champions Al Hilal kicked out after Covid-19 outbreak

Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal have been kicked out of the AFC Champions League after a coronavirus outbreak saw the team name just nine players in the starting line-up for a match on Wednesday. The club failed to name a squad of the minimum 13 men following a series of positive tests which left a severely weakened squad

Al Hilal had only eight outfield players to start Wednesday’s match against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, with a pair of goalkeepers named on the bench.

The club’s weakened line-up came in the wake of a massive coronavirus outbreak, with 15 players testing positive for the virus in recent days.

Under Article 4.3 of the special rules applicable to AFC Competitions during the Covid-19 pandemic, the team was deemed to have withdrawn from the competition, the AFC said in a press release.

A Covid-19 outbreak affecting 15 Al Hilal players meant the team had only eight virus-free outfield players for Wednesday’s match against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai. Al Hilal named two goalkeepers on the bench but could not fulfil the minimum squad requirement of 13 players.

The ruling means all matches played by Al Hilal are considered null and void and therefore Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai have progressed to the Round of 16 from Group B.

Al Hilal and the Saudi Arabian federation requested a postponement of the match against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, but the AFC rejected it, deciding that it would have negatively impacted the match schedule of the AFC Champions League (West).